AP NEWS

Dem challenger Wenzel ready for ‘tough road’ to unseat Frelinghuysen

September 26, 2016 GMT

Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is ignoring the threats posed by gun violence and global warming and putting the interests of big corporations over those of everyday New Jerseyans, said Joseph Wenzel, the Democratic candidate running to represent the 11th Congressional District.

“What has he really been doing with that power?” Wenzel said during an interview with the editorial board of The Record on Monday, referring to Frelinghuysen’s senior role on the House Appropriations Committee.

“He’s authored a lot of bills for pharmaceutical companies...so that they can produce their medicines in other countries, bring back medicines, and get breaks,” he said. “But for the average citizen in the district, nothing’s done.”

Frelinghuysen did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Wenzel, a general practice attorney whose only prior stint in public office was a single term on the Clifton Board of Education, faces an uphill battle in his bid to unseat Frelinghuysen, an 11-term Congressman who is the fifth member of his family to serve in Congress.

Frelinghuysen is the chairman of the subcommittee that writes the Pentagon’s budget. By the end of June, Frelinghuysen had raised $1.5 million — including about $169,000 from the defense aerospace industry and $112,000 from the pharmaceutical industry — to support his campaign and that of other Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in U.S. politics.

Wenzel, by comparison, had raised nothing and spent nothing on his campaign as of Jun. 30, according to the same data. The 11th District, which includes parts of Passaic, Essex, Morris and Sussex counties, is dominated by Republicans.

“It is a very tough road” to win a seat in Congress against Frelinghuysen, Wenzel said, but added that the “unusual” dynamics of the presidential race could work in his favor.

Wenzel said he was motivated to run for office following the failure by Congress to pass meaningful gun-control legislation in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.

“I thought that day, ‘Now something is going to be done to address gun safety, who can have access to guns, what type of guns are allowed to be out there,’” he said. “And all we heard was silence.”

Wenzel said he is in favor of universal background checks for firearm transactions and further federal restrictions on the sale of particularly powerful guns like the AR-15. New Jersey has banned so-called assault weapons since 1990.

Wenzel also said Monday that he supports moving the U.S. healthcare system toward a single payer system; increasing the federal gas tax if paired with a “long-term commitment to infrastructure replacement”; passing the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children who grew up in the U.S.; and equipping local police departments with more resources to combat terrorism.

In addition, he called small businesses “the real backbone of our economy” and proposed expanding a federal microloan program to support them.

Email: pugliese@northjersey.com